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More crappy photography from me... and, it ain't coal ...but,

On the left, crappy Lionel insert... on the right, very nice insert.  Fits very well and looks great!  I don't know if the Hobby shop makes them or has them made or if they are still in business.  Whoever made it did an excellent job... Five Stars!20210530_143745





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Last edited by Dennis-LaRock


I made some coal loads for some Lionel hoopers for my C & O coal train a couple years back. It’s pretty easy. Cut some 1” insulation foam to fit inside the hooper used a rasp to shape the top of foam to look like a rippled load of coal. Painted the loads black then spread Elmers white glue on the top and sprinkled fine coal in the glued area. The coal is used as a blasting media. I bought it at TSC near me. At the time the blasting media was about $8.00 for a 25 lb bag.
Hope This Helps



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@boomer0622 posted:

I have watched a couple videos on making coal loads and it doesn't seem too complicated so think I'll give it a try.

Any suggestions on what coal to buy,  is it all the same ?   Where to get it ?

It's not complicated and an easy DIY - the blue foam method works just fine and you can make whatever customized loads to suit whatever car you have in hand.

Here's one of my gons with a real coal load that I sold off in April.

Last edited by mwb

Thanks everyone I appreciate all the feedback.  I'm going to try making some loads.  I don't have any pieces of foam and don't want to buy a 4 x 8  sheet but have plenty of scrap wood.  So I've cut inserts from 1/4" plywood and painted them black as starters.  I'm thinking of building up the centers also.

mwb, I really like that gondola, I would have bought it, my last name is really Boomer.



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@boomer0622 posted:

mwb, I really like that gondola, I would have bought it, my last name is really Boomer.

Thanks!  Unfortunate on timing of sale.

But you could always build your own - that lettering set is available from Clover House.  And scratchbuilding building gondolas is pretty easy - done at least 8 in the past 18 months now.

Last edited by mwb
@boomer0622 posted:

Good point John, hadn't thought about "top heavy".  I've sent an email to Dave @D.C. rail, waiting for a response,  he's only about 20 miles away.

Laz1957,  thanks for the video.

Maybe use some “Great Stuff” or equivalent to save weight when building up the coal piles on the plywood base.  One can would make many coal piles.  Don’t forget to remove the base from the car when applying the foam.

Last edited by GregM
@mwb posted:

Top heavy is easily countered by putting a sheet of 1 or 2 mm lead sheet under the foam,

If you're using sculpted foam, there shouldn't be an issue with top heavy.  I was talking about flat pieces of plywood, those you'd be heaping coal onto to made a good looking load.  Those I questioned if they would be top heavy.  I don't see sticking 2mm of lead under the foam as a solution in many cases, that would really increase the weight of the cars, perhaps too much.

Of course, there's also the cost and availability of sheets of lead.

There's also the handling precautions of dealing with cutting and handling lead.

How Lead Exposures Can Happen

Lead Poisoning Is a Real and Present Danger


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@Hot Water posted:

In my opinion, the best of all time were the St Charles Model Works coal and gondola loads. Don't know if they are still in business.

Unfortunately they are not in business. I've emailed them a few times in the past year and got no reply. You can't order from their website which I did on several occasions.

Hands down, they made the best drop in coal and gondola loads. I think I have like 4 gondola loads for my Atlas 52' gondolas, with the coiled wire being the best. They were pretty affordable too.

I bought some coal loads on eBay from a seller who uses real anthracite coal glued to a styrofoam base. I also bought a few coal loads from somebody in PA who uses wood blocks as a base. I wasn't impressed with either so I pitched them. Fortunately I found some Weaver coal loads for my Weaver 4-bay hoppers and they were a perfect fit and looked the best. I miss Weaver Models.

Just a quick update on my coal load project.  I glued an additional strip of wood in the center of each flat insert 1/4"x3/4' leaving a 1/2" at each end and beveled the edges.  Then painted it black and while the paint was wet I sprinkled the coal on it.   

I went to Tractor Supply and got a bag of the blasting sand called Black Diamond.  It only came in a 50 lb. bag,  3- lifetimes supply so in anyone wants any let me know.

This in only 3 applications of the sand, 2 or 3 more should and it should look pretty good.



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I 3D printed coal inserts in lightweight resin. The surface was "coal-like" in mounds that you might get from a loader.

It did not need to dry or cure overnight  just  spray paint.  the only issue was that there are many sizes of coal cars so each needed to be a bit differently sized.


these are four curves that were lofted together.


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After making the 7 loads using the plywood they did seem a little heavy and added drag.  I was able to find a 2'X2' piece of foam at Lowes for about $6.  So I decided to start over. ( after all I have a 50 lb. bag of coal) .  What I'm showing here is the difference in the weight using the plywood  vs  Foam.

This is the plywood base.

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This is the foam base, over 1/2 lb. difference in just 7 cars.

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I'm having so much fun making these I've filled 13 hoppers and 6 gondolas.


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